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May victory be found in death? - R.H. Joseph

Sunday was Holocaust Remembrance Day and Monday I awoke to news that Palestinians promise 100 reprisals for the assassination of a Hamas leader.

Before I get to my point let me make clear I don't claim to be an expert or even adequately informed regarding the infinitely complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I do not address the issue in my columns because the publication of gut feelings and unfounded opinions is irresponsible.

Instead, I address the extremely sensitive issue of the behavior of European Jews during the Nazi's implementation of the Final Solution.

What might have happened, how would history have been transformed, I ask myself, had European Jews of the '30s and '40s behaved toward their enemies as the Palestinians currently behave toward theirs?

Calm down! I'm not taking sides in the current conflict; I'm simply a curious pragmatist. Are there lessons to be learned from the tactics and strategies of the Palestinians?

How does a small and ill-equipped but determined band alter the course of a juggernaut?

Would there have been a "Holocaust" if European Jews had said "Kill one of us and 100 will sacrifice themselves in service to our people and our cause"?

As today's headlines make clear, the tactic of self-sacrifice in service to what is perceived as a greater good continues to impact world affairs.

Right or wrong, the Palestinian suicide bombers have aroused the world's attention and their memories will be celebrated rather than mourned on days of remembrance.

Would six million Jews have died had they adopted a similar tactic? Under the circumstances would such a tactic be morally defensible? Would there be a Holocaust Remembrance Day or a Day to Recall Valiant Heroes?

Having no facts and figures before me I can only wonder what percentage of the Palestinian population has engaged in such self-sacrifice? Further, when I consider this percentage and multiply it by the number of Israelis killed in each bombing I wonder what the German body count might have been had the Jews employed such a tactic half a century ago.

Would the Nazis have been able to prosecute their war upon the Jews in this hypothesis? If one percent of the European Jews had each been responsible for the deaths of four Nazis, that's a quarter million dead soldiers.

A similar situation currently obtains in Iraq. Whether you agree with the Iraqi's attempts to repel the invaders or not, attend to the impact of the deaths of a relative few upon the most powerful military force on the planet.

They have manipulated America into a lose/lose scenario. We can either slaughter an alarming number of those whom we are "liberating" or engage in a humiliating retreat. The fearsome might of Goliath is being undermined by rock throwers.

From a tactical point of view, how should David fight the aggressive beast?

In the battle for hearts and minds, when we bomb an Iraqi mosque the American news media presents the Bush administration's spin. We deem the act necessary and therefore justified. We feel better.

The world's Muslims see only the bombing of a Mosque, an abominable and indefensible act. How many of these newly impassioned anti-Americans will we have to kill in order to bring them the fruits of democracy, six million?

How many self-sacrificing young men and women will be willing to die in the cause of liberating their country from foreign invaders?

It's funny how political spin is applied to such events. When I was a kid we were taught to look with pride upon the teen-agers enrolled at The Citadel who resigned their commissions and enlisted in the Confederacy at the onset of the War of Northern Aggression.

Today the Israeli press considers shameful the efforts of Palestinian youth to do the same, just as the Bush administration casts opprobrium upon the self-sacrifice of Iraqi youths.

Is there a difference between victory and honor? I recall a popular slogan of the 1960s employed during the campaign of American blacks for social equality: "It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees."

In America, a culture currently immersed in religious self-absorption, death is abhorrent. We have lost sight of the fact that the honorable consider such a sacrifice inconsequential.

If we were the minority, the dominated, who among us would be willing to sacrifice themselves to a greater cause. Would such action be virtuous?

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. His column appears on Wednesdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.